How many sides does a snowflake have?
(Lansing State Journal, December 30, 1992)



A snowflake is a type of crystal.  Crystals are formed in nature in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Most solid matter, like minerals and metals, are said to be crystalline.  Each crystal has a specific shape that helps scientists categorize what type of crystal it is.

You have seen crystals in your everyday life when you put salt on your food or sugar into your favorite cookie recipe.  If you look closely at the salt and sugar you can see the shape of each crystal.  You can also make your own crystals at home very easily using sugar or salt and water.  Add some sugar to a pan of water.  The sugar will dissolve into the water making a sugar-water solution.  Heat the sugar-water to boiling.  As the water boils and evaporates, you will notice crystal starting to form.

An alternate way of making a crystal at home is to use a solution of salt and water and a jar.  Pout some water into a jar and add salt until no more salt will dissolve in the water.  Hang a string into the salt water solution and set the jar in a sunny window.  After a few days, the water will evaporate and you will see salt crystals formed on the thread.

Snowflake crystals are made from frozen water.  If you look closely at a snowflake, you can see many different and beautiful forms. But they will all have something in common.  All snowflakes are the same type of crystal and are hexagonal, which means they have six sides or branches.  So next time you are out on a snowy day, look at each snowflake and count how many sides you see.


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